Can someone help me to understand the Yamaka Sutta (SN 22:85)?

thanks @Ceisiwr ! this is great! I will give this some further thought.

1 Like

I edited the above. If you are interested in learning more about Theravada and it’s Abhidhamma, I recommend Y. Karunadasa’s “The Theravada Abhidhamma: Inquiry Into the Nature of Conditioned Reality”. Even if you don’t agree, it gives a good overview of where the school is coming from.

1 Like

Haha! yes, I think this is quite right, the people who argue that persons are fictions but the fictions are reborn again and again forever causing themselves immeasurable suffering until they achieve the permanent annihilation of a thing that never existed anyway add an awful lot of metaphysical baggage to arrive at a position that the Atheist gets for free so to speak.

But @travlingwonderer I would counsel you not to despair, there is much more to Buddhism than the not-self doctrine, the point of which is to help you be less selfish and more happy anyway, not to solve metaphysical riddles, Christianity, Atheism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, all these faiths have their riches of spiritual profundity, otherwise we would have to consider millions upon millions of people to be deluded fools based on their cultures which is not very charitable, and of course all these faiths have their foibles and problems, otherwise we would have to consider some one opinion amongst the many as perfect and infallible and that would seem to be pretty simplistic and naive.

My advise to you would be to meditate! thinking to hard about these things isn’t good for you, you only need to look at the history of philosophy to realize that smarter people than you or me have had disagreements about these subjects for thousands of years, so it’s not really very likely that a stranger on the internet will be able to resolve all your doubts.


Good luck with your journey.


Thanks for the recommendation! Abhidamma is my weakness as my textual background is from (populist expositions of) Mahayana to the EBT’s rather than Theravada to he EBT’s.

I guess my naive “EBT” take is that the experience of “hard” is dependent on the contact between my toe and the earth element (the stoop) and dependant on these three (the stoop, the toe and the contact) there arises “ouchy consciousness”. Nothing is more or less real, all the factors involved are dependent, and any analysis of some other part of them would yield a similar “Dependance” type picture,

like the stoop exists dependent on spacetime and quantum field fluctuations, the coincidence of the two is “Earth element” etc etc.

And it’s turtles all the way down so to speak, “quantum field” depends on a Hilbert space and a linear operator, the meeting of the two is “electron” … “Hilbert space” depends on a Hilbert and a space… basically it is the nature of any phenomena to be dependent on other phenomena for its coherence, there is no ground, otherwise experience becomes something that is supported from “outside” and then there is no path to a cessation, we are trapped inside.

again, disclaimers that I am just having (a very enjoyable) conversation here and my views may differ when i publish my opus :slight_smile:


1 Like

Fair enough. It’s always good to see where others are coming from IMO. I consider myself a Theravadin (with some minor heresies), but I do enjoy reading the Abhidharmas of other schools (what is available and known about them) and of course where the EBT folk are coming from. Mahayana too.

1 Like

Ive edited my pervious post with a bit more detail about my critique of the sabhāva picture.

Thanks again for taking the time to paint a clearer picture!


1 Like

You’re most welcome.

1 Like

well as I say, opinions on the metaphysical finer points differ, but if I may just add to @Dhammanando 's recommendations, if merelogical supervenience sounds a bit rich, perhaps start with the very excellent A History of Buddhist Philosophy by David J. Kalupahana. It is a fairly friendly and to my mind sympathetic and even-minded treatment of some of the major figures and ideas in the Buddhist philosophical story.


Thank you for your understanding and encouragement! I will add your suggestion to my book list.

1 Like

And that is exactly my position. :grin: The parts are processes too… if one keeps analyzing all that can be found is the process of codependent arising with Emptiness at the core. All ‘things’ are but a temporary homeostasis of underlying inconstant phenomena (processes).

(This may be Nagarjuna’s position too, from my limited reading).

1 Like

The purpose of Buddhism is to be happy and free of suffering here and now. Whatever happens in the future is irrelevant.

Getting bogged down in concepts of what happens after death or if there is a self or whatever is just an obstacle to happiness.

One attains happiness by letting go of things that stress out the mind, and concepts of self is one of those things. Afterlife too.

Worrying if there is an afterlife to determine if you should be happy now is rather foolish. There’s really only 2 ways to be happy now: material gratification or sublime gratification. The dhamma sacrifices the former to attain the latter, and then it sacrifices any unnecessary ego baggage to attain further gratification.

Identity view must be given up because one needs to be disassociated from the processes of the mind in order to change and eliminate them. If you believe a process is you and cannot be changed (i.e. permanent) then you cannot get rid of it.

Whatever is impermanent (i.e. changeable) is stressful and is not yourself and therefore can be stopped (i.e. not activated again/reborn) by no longer feeding into the process with your attention and intention guided by wisdom, which results in further wisdom and liberation.

1 Like

For the OP.

Rather than get bogged down with the Yamaka sutta and its finer philosophical points, perhaps you could try the Buddha’s Guaranteed teaching (MN60) ? :slightly_smiling_face:


I note that the Wikipedia page for Pascals Wager Pascal's wager - Wikipedia egregiously omits this sutta from its list of “Variations and other wager arguments”, perhaps @Javier (I think I remember you are a Wikipedia person?) could add it? It seems ridiculous that by far the most explicit and earliest version of this philosophical argument should not be mentioned on the Wikipedia page about it.

1 Like

Yes. That’s correct. What is (has been) annihilated is greed hatred and delusion.

The aggregates are constantly falling away (and arising) which is why there was never a ‘being’ in the first place. There is only a ‘coming to be’ and ‘ceasing to be’. That we think that there is a ‘being’ (to be annihilated) is part of the delusion that is annihilated. (SN 12.15 for example)

1 Like

I think you may be conflating no-self with no being.

There is a being, that being is the active processes of greed, hatred, and delusion. It’s only when those processes are stilled that there is no longer a being.

See the satta sutta.

In my mind, this basically equates to the advice “out of sight, out of mind”. Are you really saying that Buddha just taught people to stop thinking about stressful things so they could be happy? What kind of wisdom is that?

Quite the opposite, it’s actually by seeing fully how things are that you let go of them. You fully see the drawbacks (cons, impermanence, dukkha), gratification (pros, temporarily ceasing misery and dukkha), and the escape (path).

In other words, everything you’re doing now is to stop suffering, it’s just that your method is ignorant and inefficient via sensual pleasure, and that the Buddha’s method is better and eventually everlasting as the fetters are given up.

You don’t know better (ignorant), so you deal with suffering the only way you know how (sensual pleasures, conceit, etc…).

I don’t deny that this is true. A lot of suffering can be avoided if we practice detachment. But detachment from life itself? Buddhists are basically saying that there is nothing after the death of an enlightened being and that’s the ultimate goal.

In Atheistic terms, that’s basically like saying I could obtain the most happiness by offing myself. Can you see how that isn’t very inspiring?

I can agree that our existence will be unsatisfactory if we cling to the wrong kinds of pleasure, but I’d rather find a way to exist with the right kinds of pleasure – not abandon existence altogether.

No they’re not. They’re saying suffering is present here and now, how do we deal with suffering here and now. What happens after suffering has been permanently eliminated is outside the scope of the dhamma and irrelevant. It’s like asking the Doctor after he has removed the tumour what to do now, not relevant, he did his job.

No it’s not, suicide is not the escape from dukkha, which is a mental problem, and not a physical problem. One can live happily without dukkha.

Nowhere did I say you should abandon “existence all together”, which I don’t even know means in this particular case.

All there is to know, is that when you wake up in the morning, there is experience. You can have experience with stress or without stress. The Dhamma deals with experience, and what kind of experience you want to have, and it advocates for an experience without craving since craving is stressful.

The Buddha said that suffering is (among other things) being separated from what is pleasant, right? And as you yourself said (and I agree with you):

I do not wish to be separated from a pleasurable existence so contemplating what happens to an enlightened being after their death is natural. But the idea that there is nothing after their death is stressful and Buddhists just don’t have any comforting response. They just say, “don’t think about it”. Thats my frustration.

What’s so wrong with believing in an eternal self? It would ease the anxiety of personal extinction and allow me to really practice the Dhamma, knowing that I’m not working towards the eventual end of my existence?